Business process management (BPM) tool suites, along with BPM best practices and techniques, promise to boost efficiency, improve performance and make organizations more responsive to change. Sustainable business process improvement is the objective. Craig White, National Strategy & Operations Quality and Risk Management Leader at Deloitte, has spent more than 25 years optimizing business processes for some of the nation's largest organizations, including the U.S. Air Force. He recently shared his views on BPM as a tool for CIOs grappling with customer-facing processes and rapid digitization.
The first wave of business process management focused primarily on internal, back-office operations. But more recently, enterprises seem increasingly interested in applying a BPM tool to improve customer-facing processes. Have you seen this trend among your clients?
Craig White: I think we have, and part of it is defining processes in a different way. The way our customers look at things today, all processes can be considered what we are calling "customer-facing." Because of the power of BPM tools, we have the power to connect from one end of the enterprise -- the customer end -- all the way back to the very origination of products or services. We see our customers having a stronger understanding of what's impacting cost, schedule and quality and how they are directly impacting internal or external customers. We see a lot of our clients thinking about customers in two dimensions: the external customer setting and internal customers, or stakeholders.
Who are the internal customers from a CIO's perspective?
White: When thinking about CIOs, they need to work with lines of business, product lines and operating divisions.
How does the customer-facing application of BPM tools/techniques change how CIOs approach this technology? For example, do they define success differently and use different metrics?
White: I don't know that I would say different metrics. BPM tools can offer CIOs and the broader organization … more insight into how they are actually performing, including managing the workflow across the organization. It's not defining success at the enterprise [level]. It is really understanding and having the ability to measure data. One could argue that in the not-too-distant past, the data just wasn't there to feed the enterprise-level key performance indicators with the level of granularity where you could really drill down and say, "We have operating location x that is struggling in a certain dimension." BPM has been able to unlock these types of informational details for leadership. BPM allows that transparency and traceability of the work being performed at the tactical level.
What do traceability and transparency mean in the BPM tool context?
White: In short, the ability via the BPM tool suite to see an issue or see a problem or see an indicator moving in a direction that is not in the best interests of the organization. Being able to drill down in the BPM, past the key performance indicators, and into the underlying processes and sub-processes to determine where the problems truly lie. And that is done between the partnership of the CIO's organization and the business areas, whether that is an operating division or a line-of-business manager.
How does the emergence of digital business or "digitization" impact the need for BPM? As enterprises transact more business via the cloud, mobile technology and social media, does BPM play a role in helping CIOs optimize business processes and workflows across multiple platforms?
White: I would say yes. Digitization really impacts BPM in a few ways. You have this key step in the modernization of technology, and BPM really helps you understand the business as you migrate into these new technologies. It's critical for understanding how processes are currently executed. When thinking about the power of BPM, it does a great job of positioning the organization as they move into a more digital environment. They have all of this great visibility into the organization and that is a big difference from [years ago] when you deployed a new technology solution into a line of business and had to first go in and do a lot of work understanding the business. With BPM in place, you have a connected business and technology ecosystem and are able to eliminate several root causes including human error and wait time, which makes getting the job done right and on time significantly easier.
Craig White, National Strategy & Operations Quality and Risk Management Leader, Deloitte
In what areas do you see BPM having the greatest success in improving an enterprise's customer interactions and business outcomes?
White: The very nature of BPM provides a structured approach for organizations to facilitate their understanding of how to efficiently execute their processes and how to ensure strategic alignment. BPM makes for a more effective and efficient organization, which of course results in much better customer alignment, and customer performance.
Taking another perspective, stepping into the day-to-day business processes, you have some processes that appear to be far removed from the client-facing position or the client themselves. BPM allows you to connect these processes to the end products. Being able to have that connection focuses attention on customer interaction and business outcomes. It helps you think through applicable laws, regulation, policies, and implement standard operating procedures … to make sure your processes align to the customer and your business outcomes. I guess the capper for me is if you have fully implemented it, it takes a lot of variation out of the process results of your organization and makes it easier to connect to the business outcomes you are trying to drive for your customers.
Any advice for CIOs on best practices for utilizing a BPM tool and BPM techniques?
White: The biggest thing for CIOs is to ensure they have a great partnership with the business itself. Once you move past that step, which is a precursor to an effective organization, CIOs need to work with senior leadership to make sure they have a solid vision for the organization and make sure the vision is aligned to the needs of the customers -- internal customers and external customers. We see that CIOs play a critical role in ensuring the vision for that technology lines up, is very clear, establishes the need for change and emphasizes benefits.
CIOs should also ensure that they empower others to identify improvement opportunities across the organization. This is a great opportunity for CIOs. Be facilitative in nature -- this is something we would like to see. It's part of the implementation around adopting Agile with Scrum and the Continuous Process Improvement best practices to enable rapid results. That is something every CIO can consider in addition to ensuring you have the right culture in place to move forward, connect customers and be successful with your business outcomes.
Explore BPM best practices
Learn more about the benefits of BPM tools
How to leverage the operational excellence model for BPM